Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Smoke and Mirrors

The Evocative Art of Mavourneen Trainor

Tracey Skehan
Published August 04, 2015

"Growing up I was an outsider," says Mavourneen (Moe) Trainor. "Art gave me a voice and allowed me to express myself."

Mavourneen is a Thunder Bay-based artist and visual arts professor. After joining Lakehead University in 1985, she soon championed the use of Photoshop as an artistic medium. "It's a new reality of the visual arts that visual arts jobs are often related to computers," she says, "so it's an area that students can continue to pursue."

Mavourneen offers courses in computer art, 2D and 3D design, and painting. Her talent for teaching makes her a sought-after professor. In her own art, Mavourneen alternates easily between mixed media collage, painting, and digital art – constructing self-contained universes filled with layered and hypnotic imagery.

"It starts with an image. Then I put it together with other images and see if they provoke a dialogue."

Mavourneen's feelings of being on the fringes stem from living as an expatriate throughout her childhood. She was born in Mexico, but when she was five, the Trainor family began moving from country to country. Her father was an engineer who supervised large shipbuilding and pipeline projects in Texas, Peru, and Venezuela.

painting depicting a forest at night in the background with a movie projector, chair, and projector screen in the foreground
"Memory Reel" from the Chambers series

She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Queen's University in 1983 before returning to Mexico for two years. Mavourneen has always been drawn to the expressionism that permeates Mexican art – everything from murals to altarpieces. "Even when I'm doing my abstract paintings, there's content in them. I'm trying to communicate something that I'm feeling."

Her recent series Chambers, which was exhibited at Thunder Bay's Definitely Superior Art Gallery in 2014, was inspired by the art of female surrealists. "I really enjoy the qualities of humour and mysticism in their work," Mavourneen explains.

Chambers was a way for Mavourneen to explore aging and identity. "The loss of friends who had passed away and the concept of moving into the next stage of my life informed the series." She also wanted to use Photoshop to transpose and redefine iconic images from art history.

The resulting works resemble etchings and pay homage to artists such as Da Vinci, Giotto, Matisse, and Remedios Varo. Although each artwork is only 15"x 20" in size, all of them have well over 150 layers. "Having layers of content," Mavourneen says, "lets you create a more coherent composition and tell a story."

Mavourneen's approach requires great patience – it takes months to do a single piece. It's also wreaked havoc with her eyesight. "'I've gone through five or six sets of glasses in a six-year period."

With the academic year over and the long days of summer unfolding, Mavourneen has re-immersed herself in painting. "Right now I'm working on 16 paintings at once – a 360 degree landscape. And if I ruin a painting, I cut out the parts that I like and glue them onto other paintings."

Her originality and unique vision make Mavourneen Trainor an exceptional Canadian artist whose work is found in many international collections. Mavourneen, however, finds her greatest pleasure in creating a work, hanging it on her own wall, and saying "I just did that."

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